Amy Schumer Has Cushing’s Syndrome – Here’s What To Know About The Condition

Standup comedian and actress Amy Schumer has shared that she has a rare hormonal condition known as Cushing’s syndrome. 

Schumer revealed her diagnosis in an interview with the News Not Noise newsletter and though she describes going through several tests and worries, the comedian explained, “I have the kind of Cushing that will just work itself out and I’m healthy [which] was the greatest news imaginable.”

What is Cushing’s syndrome?

Cushing’s syndrome is a rare condition that occurs when there’s too much cortisol in the body over a long period of time. You’ve probably heard of cortisol as the “stress hormone”; under normal circumstances, it’s produced by the adrenal glands sitting atop the kidneys and helps to regulate a whole host of different bodily functions, from blood pressure, to metabolism, to the stress response.

The continuously high levels of cortisol leading to Cushing’s syndrome can have many different causes. Most commonly, it’s the result of extended use of steroid medications, which contain synthetic cortisol. 

However, on rare occasions it can be caused by a tumor in one of the adrenal glands, or on the pituitary gland in the brain – the latter is a particular type of the syndrome called Cushing’s disease. Though the tumors tend to be benign or non-cancerous, their presence is what causes the body to produce too much cortisol.

How common is Cushing’s syndrome and who is more likely to be affected by it?

One group of people at risk of Cushing’s syndrome are those taking steroid medicines, though it’s unclear how many of them will go on to develop the condition. However, Cushing’s syndrome that’s endogenous – caused by something inside the body – is rare, estimated to affect between 40 to 70 people out of every million each year.

It’s more common in people aged between 30 to 50, though it can be found in children too. The condition is also more likely to affect people who are biologically female, with three times as many affected in this group compared to males.

What are the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome?

How Cushing’s syndrome presents itself can vary from person to person, but there are some common symptoms. Visible signs might include: weight gain, particularly around the chest and tummy; a “hump” of fat between the shoulders or at the base of the neck; or a puffy, round face.

People with the condition might also experience physical symptoms such as muscle weakness, thin skin, irregular periods, and fatigue. It can also have an impact on mood, with increased irritability, anxiety, or depression, as well as reduced libido.

Left untreated, Cushing’s syndrome can lead to serious complications such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, and even heart attacks and stroke.

Can Cushing’s syndrome be treated?

If sufficiently treated, many people can recover from Cushing’s syndrome, with their cortisol levels returning to normal. How it is treated will depend on the cause, which healthcare professionals can determine through a series of tests, such as blood tests and imaging. For example, if the syndrome is caused by taking steroids, the dose can gradually be reduced to the minimum required in order to treat the condition it was prescribed for.

When Cushing’s syndrome has been caused by the presence of a tumor, the most common approach to treatment is with surgery. After removal of a tumor in the pituitary gland, it can actually prevent the body from making enough cortisol, so patients are prescribed cortisol medication, which is usually taken for around six to 18 months. Where surgery doesn’t work, radiotherapy can also be an option.

For tumors in the adrenal gland, the whole gland is usually surgically removed alongside the tumor. In some rare cases, tumors can be present on both glands, requiring both to be removed; when this is the case, it requires staying on lifelong medication in order to replace the missing cortisol and other hormones.

All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current.  

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions. 

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